Frog is Meat

By looking on an Eng lish Language website about Nanjing and using a map torn out of a magazine, we set off with our word-to-word dictionary to find a vegetarian restaurant famous for its faux meat. The good news – we managed successfully to use the subway system! (Not so challenging as we thought – the stations were written in Pinyin or roman letters in addition to the Chinese characters. Also, there’s only one line, so we had a 50/50 shot). Then we walked. And walked. And walked. We can ask for directions pretty well – Shanghai Lu zai nar? But being able to ask a question and being able to understand the answer are two very different things.

The restaurant we thought we were looking for turned out to be some kind of cafeteria, with no English words, and I think we were supposed to pay first then bring our ticket to a station, but there were all these different stations, and they all looked like they served meat. We couldn’t figure out where to start. The thing about knowing a few words in Chinese is that people think you understand Chinese, and they keep talking to you, slower and louder, but it doesn’t matter how slow they talk, you don’t know what words they’re saying! I have a new found appreciation for what American immigrants go through – and the Chinese people are way kinder than Americans to foreigners.

So we left that cafeteria place and, starving, thirsty, sweaty, and tired, stopped at a restaurant that said "Frog Prince Restaurant." English words – maybe they’ll have an English menu. The restaurant we stopped at yesterday had an English menu. No such luck. So we said "bu rou" (not meat) and "women bu che rou" (we don’t eat meat) and "women shi su de che" (we are vegetarians). Our waitress managed to nod and say a strained "not meat" in English back to us – I thought we had success. Then we got a big bowl of frog meat.

If you need the impetus to become a vegetarian, visiting China is a great way to start. They’re honest about where their food comes from. Outside one restaurant were live, and not-so-live, chickens in a tiny cage that were tonight’s dinner. The big market by us sells what I looked like swimming pickles, but then I noticed the heads – either snakes or eels.

Sorry, I haven’t figured out how to add pictures with the proxy yet.


4 thoughts on “Frog is Meat

  1. Definitely take that trip to India – no lack of certifiably vegetarian food there! If all goes well, we’ll be able to buy our tickets to be there 6-25 December tomorrow. Today we had a bit of a to-do with the bank after we tried to buy tickets, and they decided that the attempted purchase was a fraud attempt and froze our account.

  2. well, at least you guys aren’t living there permanently… I’m really glad you guys see the perspectives of immigrants here in this country. In fact, what you guys described sounds eerily similar to what my parents sort of went through when they first arrived here. They didn’t get crazy meat like Frogs but they got ripped off countless times at places like Jiffy Lube or other service businesses because let’s face it: people in this country love to rip off people who are old and can’t speak English. I just wished that some of our own friends experienced what you just went through. I won’t name names though.

  3. I think that the Chinese patience with foreigners derives from the fact that not too many of them settle there permanently. I would be willing to bet that, say, near the Burmese border Chinese people probably have far less patience with Burmese economic refugees who do not speak Chinese than they had with you and Laura — and probably far less than Americans have with immigrants here.

    Also, fyi eat is “chi” not “che.”

  4. It might be helpful to say something like “Wo men zhi chi zhi wu” (we only eat plants). But what will probably work the best is find out what the local Buddhist vegetarians say when they are in restaurants, and say that. In the cultural context of China, most vegetarians are going to be that way for Buddhist reasons. If they think you are a Buddhist vegetarian, they will understand and sympathize. Once the food is served, you can attempt to explain your actual motivations if the opportunity arises.

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